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Ohio zoo seeks to stop widow from reclaiming exotic animals

October 27, 2011 |  8:37 am

Animals

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, temporary home of the six animals that survived last week’s freeing of dozens of exotic animals by the owner who then killed himself, is seeking to prevent the widow from reclaiming her brood, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

The widow, Marian Thompson, could reclaim the six animals as soon as Thursday, zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters, vice president of community relations, said in a telephone interview.

Thompson’s husband, Terry, released the 56 animals, including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears, that he kept as his Zanesville, Ohio, farm last week before killing himself. Officials eventually killed 49 animals; the six survivors were sent to the zoo.

PHOTOS: Exotic animals deliberately freed

The animals -- three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a young grizzly bear -- have been at the zoo since the incident, but are technically the property of Marian Thompson.

The zoo has received a fax from Thompson’s attorney that she wants to retrieve her animals, Peters said.

“We can’t legally stop her” from taking back the animals, she said.

“We had hoped Ms. Thompson would leave the animals at the zoo in the care of our team of professionals,” Columbus Zoo and Aquarium chief executive and president Dale Schmidt said in a posting on the facility's website.

“We are trying to get authorization from government authorities and agencies to ensure they stay at the zoo. Unfortunately, the current laws do not protect the animals and at this time we have no legal right to stop them from being taken from the zoo,” the statement said.

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--Michael Muskal 

Photo: This August 2008 photo shows Terry Thompson, left, and his wife, Marian, on their farm west of Zanesville, Ohio. Credit: Chris Crook/ Zanesville Times Recorder

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